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Immunol Invest. 2006;35(3-4):419-36.

Memory T cells in human tumor and chronic inflammatory microenvironments: sleeping beauties re-awakened by a cytokine kiss.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14214, USA.


Human tumors often progress and spread in spite of the presence of large numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells with activated or memory cell phenotypes. The T cells in the microenvironment of human lung tumors fail to be activated in response to stimulation via the T cell receptor and CD28 under conditions that fully activate T cells derived from the peripheral blood of the cancer patients. A combination of regulatory mechanisms which are also observed in a variety of different chronic inflammatory conditions may contribute to the T cell unresponsiveness, and to their inability to respond to and kill tumor cells. The non-responsiveness of memory T cells isolated from human lung tumors and non-malignant chronic inflammatory tissues can be reversed in vitro by a brief pulse with IL-12, and the local and sustained release of exogenous IL-12 into the microenvironment of human tumor xenografts in SCID mice re-activates the tumor-associated T cells in situ. In the later case, the T cells proliferate, secrete interferon-gamma and initiate a cascade of events that culminate in the eradication of tumor cells from the xenograft. In transplantable and spontaneously developing tumors of mice the injection of a single tumor nodule with IL-12 loaded biodegradable microspheres activates tumor-associated T cells to kill tumor cells in situ, and provokes a systemic anti-tumor response that results in the eradication of distant metastatic tumor nodules that are not treated with the cytokine. These mice exhibit a systemic tumor specific immunity as they resist a second challenge with the same (but not a different) tumor. These findings suggest that it will be possible to provoke a systemic anti-tumor immunity in cancer patients by the direct injection of IL-12 loaded biodegradable microspheres or liposomes to locally deliver very low but sustained doses of IL-12 into a single tumor site. This strategy which is based upon the ability of IL-12 to re-activate tumor-associated T cells is termed in situ tumor vaccination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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